Godzilla: King of the Monsters establishes some new lows for summer blockbusters: Never before has a movie heaved so much money onscreen for so little a result. Never has a movie been so loud and yet so boring. Never has a movie assembled such a talented cast of Oscar nominees and Emmy winners and relegated them to staring at computer screens and mumbling idiotic dialogue. You want another barrier broken? Try this: The ’98 version of Godzilla was bad, but this one is even worse.
I know the script ain’t supposed to be A Passage to India, but we can sufficiently lower the bar of expectations and this story is still straight-up poopie pants. It’s five years after the events of the first entry in this new franchise, and the world is still grappling with the unsettling presence of ancient monsters. Scientist Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) develops a contraption that can act like catnip to the beasts–attracting them and soothing their rage. Emma tests this device on a freshly-hatched Mothra, and inexplicably brings along her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) for this dangerous experiment. Their plans are foiled when Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) and his team of eco-baddies step in and steal the device. Or something like that. A host of monsters are unleashed on the world, and only time will tell who are allies and enemies. Meanwhile, Emma’s ex-husband (Kyle Chandler) leads a team to stop Jonah’s cronies and contain the monstra-pocalypse.
Now that gibberish is out of the way, let’s start with this movie’s most egregious sin: Which talented actor gets squandered the most? An easy answer would be Bradley Whitford, who once endeared The West Wing with some of its most lovable snark. Or maybe Millie Bobby Brown, the strangest girl on Stranger Things. You could chuck in Farmiga, David Strathairn, or even poor Ken Watanabe. But…alas, no. The most wasted performer here is Charles Dance. Charles Dance, for Christ’s sake. Dude owned his way through Game of Thrones as the odious, aristocratic Tywin Lannister. Now, he’s stuck filtering banal dialogue through his smug, British baritone. It’s like watching a Lotus Esprit never get out of second gear. Michael Caine once said something along the lines of, “I never saw Jaws 4, but I did see the lake house it bought me.” For this cinematic drivel, I truly hope Dance is enjoying a lake house that has ten different fireplaces.
Next up: Let’s talk about the monster fights. If you ain’t gonna give these actors a damn thing to do, you’d think we’d at least get a few good beast brawls. Merde. The action in this Godzilla is hopelessly choppy, while the camera wobbles like a Shake Weight is mounted to the side of it. Director Michael Dougherty pans and cuts his monster fights to distraction, an annoying technique that renders much the action distant and incomprehensible. There’s lots of explosions, roaring, and rain, making this the murkiest summer blockbuster to come along in a good long while.
Ben Folds had a 90s anthem called “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” a title I think suits this movie perfectly. Long stretches of this movie are nothing but special effects, leaving us no humans to care about. Godzilla: King of the Monsters could’ve been more than empty sound and fury, and much more than talented people with nothing to say. This is a portentous, dour film that would’ve benefitted from a little more self-awareness. I think you can make a good movie about a radioactive lizard. Just make it fun. As it is, this Godzilla sets a new standard for being epically underwhelming.
132 min. PG-13.